Publicly traded Canadian businesses in large part lacking when it comes to reporting their relations with indigenous people, revealed a new report by the Shareholder Association for Research and Education.

After reviewing the public disclosures of publicly traded companies from eight different sectors, the organization found that while many businesses produced reports on their policies, practices or relations with indigenous people, they generally had inconsistent or incomplete information.

The lack of quality in reporting poses a challenge for investors seeking information about indigenous relations by examining company practices, says Delaney Greig, an engagement analyst at the association who co-authored the report. “It’s difficult to get a meaningful sense of how a company is operating when the disclosure is qualitative in the sense that it’s case studies, it’s anecdotal, it’s specific to certain locations. So unless investors receive information that is talking about the company as a whole and the company’s practices in Canada, it’s difficult to understand whether this is a one-off situation or if this is something that is taken as an operational base.”

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In its report, the association, in consultation with the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, examined 173 companies from different sectors listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. They included financial, health-care, consumer, energy, materials and telecommunications businesses.

The report reviewed companies’ practices related to indigenous people, such as employment and advancement; whether indigenous businesses receive contracting and procurement opportunities; the provision of employment-related training and education; a company’s commitment to upholding indigenous rights; and community investment and support.

The telecommunications industry produced the most in terms of qualitative and quantitative disclosure about indigenous employment. The health-care sector, as well as the renewable energy and clean technology industry, produced the least information, according to the report.

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Financial institutions and companies in the materials sector also provided solid disclosure, but their information was more qualitative than quantitative. The energy sector provided abundant reporting, but the businesses’ levels of disclosure don’t match with the importance of indigenous relations to their operations, the report noted.

It also revealed:

  • 18.5% of companies report prioritizing indigenous employees;
  • Five per cent report on indigenous employment in professional and senior roles;
  • Three per cent commit to seeking free prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples;
  • 22 per cent report contracting and procuring indigenous businesses;
  • 30 per cent report community investment activities; and
  • One per cent have indigenous board members.

The findings indicate companies don’t pay as much attention to indigenous relations as other issues because they don’t see it as a priority for investors, notes Greig. But she says it’s in investors’ interest to ensure businesses prioritize their relations with indigenous people.

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“Usually, this issue is thought of from a risk framework. But I think it’s important for investors and companies to think of this from an opportunity perspective,” says Greig.

Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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